What it’s been like transforming a weekly podcast into a daily internet radio show

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Ever since I was very young I always wanted to get into broadcasting one way or another. I studied broadcasting in college. I never knew if I would end up in radio or television all I knew was I wanted to be able to create a show I could share with an audience and keep them entertained and informed.

My career in the media and entertainment industry has been a little bumpy, to say the least. I have worked in live entertainment, weddings, a sports arena, two different local broadcast TV station and a weekly newspaper. On the digital front I have done a little bit of everything ranging from writing, producing, music, videos and everything else. At one time I even started up my own independent record label which I used to publish underground hip-hip and techno/trance albums. The only thing missing from my repertoire is radio.

Like most people in this business my primary goal is to stay busy. Whenever one job has run it’s course I quickly begin looking around for the very next opportunity. Sometimes, if you are lucky and keep your eyes open, you can end up juggling multiple projects at the same time. I launched my current blog, this website you are reading this article on, around 2013, while I was still in college. Since then I expanded to include a YouTube channel and a once a week, 2 hour long uncensored podcast. While I enjoy doing the podcast I felt like I was cutting myself short. When I was working for the newspaper I toyed with the idea of transforming the podcast into a daily internet radio show. The idea never went very far as I was always working. Now that’s changed I have a little more time to focus on doing the things I enjoy.

Recently I decide to give it a show. I finally settled on a format I think works for my personality while maintaining some sense of professional production values. I want to do the radio show as if it was a broadcast series. This means keeping it limited to a set time length, a specific format and staying within the guidelines of the FCC. Although it is an internet show and thus government censors do not apply, my goal is to do it as closely to a over-the-air radio show as I can get it.

One of the things that has been motivating me is my desire to stop waiting around for someone to give me a job doing the things I enjoy and instead just making things happen. Fortunately I can say without a doubt since I have launched the daily series I have gotten the attention of the right people as I have finally begun getting many of the job offers I had been waiting for.

The biggest challenge isn’t biting my tongue. I function quite well in polite American society so I can form intelligent sentences without the use of profanities or other “dirty” language. The real difficulty has been in being disciplined enough to keep the length and format the same each episode while being consistent in uploading at the same time each day. It’s important to reach my audience if they can rely on me to deliver a consistent product that matches their lives.

One of my worries was if I did this daily would I be able to come up with enough topics to hold it down? I decided if I settled on an hour long format with very specific segments it would emulate what I learned working in the TV business. This way I would know exactly what needs to be discussed during each segment. I decided I would do an opening segment where I just talk a little about my life, my day and the world around me. Then I would transition into a recommendation section where I discussed an old movie, music work and a video game. I decided on this segment because it gives me something to be consistent while also being flexible to keep the conversation loose.

Then I decided I would transition from there to reading of headlines and offering commentary on those headlines. I figured this format would be tailored to my tastes such as I would be able to keep it going for a while. The first road block is I have finally been offered a position at a TV station I can’t refuse. This is going to put me back to working a 40 hour work week. At first I thought that would interfere with my ability to produce a daily show. However I am not thinking it will only make me more disciplined and polished giving me a chance to produce a more professional show.

No matter what happens I want to keep doing both The Dark Web Podcast on weekends and the new Dark Web Daily Show on weekdays for the near future. Part of what I like about producing my own show is I am in complete control of the content. I am looking forward to getting back to working a steady job for a media production company. Still I enjoy having the freedom to produce something on the side that is entirely mine. More than anything I produce the show I want to do and I hope my audience will find it as enjoyable to listen to as I do producing it.

Coming soon, the future of local news

The entire time I have worked in the news media business, be it television, newspapers or online, the number one question people ask is not is print dying, but how long before it dies. Unfortunately s newspapers die off communities are left with what are called news deserts, in other words they have no local news. Sure you can get gossip on Facebook but without journalists who are objective verifying facts and interviewing local sources, those posts run the risk of being flagged as fake news, and with the rampant fake news epidemic facing our culture right now that’s best to avoid

I have been struggling with a way to combing traditional news media practices, beat news reporting, local human interest stories, covering local topics, holding local government’s accountable and generally doing all the things a typical print newspaper would do. Nobody I have met considers the local news station (broadcast TV) as any less important or legit as the local newspaper for delivering local interest stories. The problem there is broadcast news has to cover such a wide area to make money, and is facing such stiff competition from digital outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc., we’re seeing local news stations struggle, close or consolidate in the same manner as the local newspapers. A democracy cannot flourish without news organizations informing the public what their government officials are doing, what their schools are up to, where their tax money is going, not without professionally trained journalists doing the work to get that information out to them.

It’s been a catch 22 for about 20 or so years for newspapers and local news stations alike. How do you produce expensive content on decreasing advertising dollars without deteriorating the quality of your product? If you make it available for free online you run the risk of giving away your product and not being able to make any money, or do you? I propose a different business model that will target the Millennials and their younger counterparts who are increasingly looking to digital as an alternative. Local TV news needs to give way to a locally produced newscast, distributed entirely on YouTube. Advertising dollars can be had via sponsors contained within the program, not traditional pre roll or post roll ads you have to share with Google. Yes, of course for the free web hosting YouTube provides let them get the pre and post roll ads, but you can take charge of the content with sponsored videos. However this only works for replacing the local broadcast affiliate, which I strongly believe is the future. It doesn’t do much for the newspaper. This is where I am proposing a new model that will combine the best of both worlds. You will get professionally produced content, delivered digitally for free, but packaged to a confined, hyper local market that is easy to sell to advertisers. Target your audience to the local shoppers and you can get the local shops to advertise with you.

In order for this model to work you have to keep your rates in line with what they expect to pay. It has to be cheaper than print but more expensive than Google or Facebook. The flip side is you can promise them you are targeting a local market instead of throwing a wide net for pennies in hopes of catching that one or two fish who swim through. Think of it like this. If you have a local wedding dress shop that targets young ladies in a specific geographic area, you can demonstrate to that shop owner that your website, a community newspaper online or a community news blog if you will, that will entice local audiences to browse content tailored for their specific tastes, then you can convince that dress shop to run her ads on your site instead of the local print newspaper.

In order to make a weekly newspaper you need a staff of at least 1-2 people. One person creating content, the other selling ads. Sometimes you run into a situation where there is just one person doing the newspaper as a solo project, more or less as a labor of love. Every local community needs it’s own newspaper. But times have changed. You no longer need to go down to the local super market to pick up a physical copy of that newspaper in today’s world. What works best now is you use social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, to target the locals in the area, use those links to get them onto your site and then provide content they cannot get elsewhere. Your job is to get them to trust you enough to spend a few minutes of their day on your site, reading up on local happenings, before heading out into the vast ocean of repeat content all the national sources are fighting over. In this world getting it first is the name of the game in national media. But getting it right is still the focus of local media.

That is why instead of investing money in a local print publication. I am going to build a series of local community news sites, newspapers or blogs that exist entirely in a digital space but treat them no different than if I was running a local newspaper. The difference is like night and day. First, you have more time to craft stories without being limited to a hard deadline. A weekly newspaper that has to print once a week has to make sure all content is packaged and done before the paper can go to print. This can lead to rushing out stories that are not quite ready but are also too old to be considered news. I ran into this dilemma all the time with our Friday newspaper. In order to get a newspaper out by Friday morning I had to send it to the printers Wednesday evening. That meant my Friday paper couldn’t have anything in it newer than, at absolute most current, 5 p.m. Wednesday. Most often I was writing stories about government meetings that took place on Monday so readers wouldn’t even know how their local politicians voted to spend their money until nearly a full week after the fact. What if something newsy was happening on a Thursday? I either had to ignore it, write about it after the fact as an after thought or try to get someone in the community to contribute to the newspaper. Sure, we did this but it was gut wrenching to learn about an event on Tuesday night that was going to happen on Thursday morning but it would be impossible for your newspaper to tell people ahead of time to go to because the paper came out after the fact but was printed before. I joked with my editor it was like writing stories in the past tense about things that haven’t happened yet. It was a juggling act.

A community blog acting as a digital newspaper wouldn’t face this problem. If news happens on Tuesday, you get your reporter there on Tuesday, snap photos, interview those involved and knock out an accurate, timely story by Wednesday morning. You then get the best of both worlds, timely and accurate news without the rush of getting that printer deadline. In today’s digital age it makes no sense not to run a local blog instead of a newspaper. The hang up old newspapers have are how to get digital advertisers. The trick is to have the same ads you always had, produced in house and tailored to their specific needs, not agency ads blanketing a mass market, not low CPM affiliate ads you make pennies on. The balance is to meet in the middle. I would set up something where an advertiser could purchase a display ad to run during a certain number of articles for a fair, fixed price. Then if they liked the results  it would be easy for them to renew.

I believe the future of newspapers is digital but not the old model of make a hard copy, then upload the PDF behind a paywall. That model hasn’t worked at reaching a new audience nor is it appealing to advertisers that have left. Local news is coming back in a big way and its going to take pioneers to blend the old model with the new model and utilize tools that social media provides. In doing so an editor can provide their local community with current events and stories that interest a local market yet still attracting advertisers that target that local market without the headache of having to provide a printed product that may or may not reach the eyeballs it was meant to.

The Dark Web podcast episode 3- (SH*THOLE EPISODE) Nintendo Labo, R-rated horror movies on the decline?

https://thespiderslair.podbean.com/e/the-dark-web-podcast-episode-3-shthole-episode-nintendo-labo-r-rated-horror-movies-on-the-decline/

This R-Rated examination of the decline of hard-r rated horror movies. Also a look at how Donald Trump has made it okay to say shithole in the news now. A brief but energetic rant about the Nintendo Labo crap coming from Nintendo, and a look at the passing of the world-famous singer of the Irish band, The Cranberries. It’s a shorter episode packed with lots of thoughts in rapid succession. Oh I also talked about the recent Cracked video layoffs.

The Dark Web TV Episode 2- UNBOXING STUFF, Go-Bots combiner team and more

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In this episode I introduce a new soda product I recently discovered. I start things off with my first ever unboxing. For the What’s Streaming segment I mentioned two YouTube channels that are interested to me. They were Biographics from the people who make TodayIFoundOut, and MetalJesusRocks crew. In the Retro Showcase I showed off my original Go-Bots combiner team, Puzzler. The Dark Web TV is a news/talk show done in a similar format to a typical news broadcast but modified for the YouTube audience. This show is a companion piece to The Dark Web podcast. New videos are set to stream each week. Follow The Spiders Lair: Twitter: @phatrat1982 Facebook: @thespiderslairblog Podcast: http://thespiderslair.podbean.com/feed/ iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/t… Website: http://www.thespiderslair.com Please like and share.

Dreaming of some good Mash Up movies: Versus, team-up and cross over films that might be interesting to see just for fun

Over the years there have been a lot of cross overs done in comic books, video games and to a lesser extent, films. Now that the comic book multiverse concept has firmly taken Hollywood by storm here is a list of completely fantastic team-up, cross over and versus films that would be fun to see. This is just for fun so there are no rules, rights issues, budget, mixing genres, etc., none of that will be taken into consideration.

1. Spider-Man vs. Wolverine

This one has been done in the comics before. It could be a team-up or it could be a straight brawl to the death, either way it would be lots of fun to put these two anti-heroes together on screen as opposites.

2. Beetlejuice meets Scooby Doo

Imagine a movie where Tim Burton directs an all CGI world with  a mix of live-action and computer characters. The plot would basically turn out that Scooby and his companions find themselves facing an actual ghost. It would be a total over-the-top comedy of course.

3. GI JOE and Transformers

Hasbro and Paramount had a missed opportunity to put the GI Joe and Transformers characters into the same universe. With reboots all the rage in Hollywood it would be really cool to see them reboot both the GI Joe film franchise and the Transformers with them teaming up to take on Unicron.

4. Mega Man and Castlevania

It would probably be best as CGI but it would work as cell animated. Live action would be harder to pull off. It would have a Belmont team-up with Mega Man in a weird alternate universe where the robot masters are all horror movie themed and the locations are set in Castlevania. This might make for a better video game than movie but whatever it needs to happen anyways.

5. Pinhead vs. Chucky

These two don’t really exist in the same universe but it could work. Pinhead and his goons all wind up terrorizing Chucky who stumbles upon the puzzle cube believing it could finally set him free from his doll body. He ends up defeating the cenobites because they learn since he is made of plastic their torture methods don’t work on him. In a weird way he would actually be the hero of the film.

6. Ghostbusters v.s Gremlins

This one would have to be animated with a retro throwback style of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. The Gremlins could be CGI but I suspect it would work best if everything was animated. It would blend horror and comedy with the Ghostbusters trying to find a scientific explanation for the Gremlin problem while looking for a solution. It would put them out of their wheel house as they fight a physical monster their proton packs would be useless against. It totally has to be holiday themed, probably Valentines Day or Groundhog day just for the hell of it.

7. Marvel vs. DC the movie

This absolutely absurd idea somehow worked in the 90’s with a comic book crossover that shook up the entire comic book fandom. With Marvel making so much money from their ventures for Disney they could easily strike some sort of deal where they step in and “save” the failing DC film universe by bringing everything together for an epic 3-film blockbuster record breaking behemoth. This one actually needs to happen one way or another, somebody make it so.

8. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers meets Sailor Moon

It needs to be live-action with Japanese characters for the Sailor Moon side and Americans based on MMPR Season 1, or you know those kids from the recent reboot. I imagine it would start out with the two sides as enemies then teaming up as the monster shows its face and they do what they do best. It should have a totally 80’s metal glam rock soundtrack too.

9. Smash Bros: The Movie

This one is a piece of cake. It needs to be CGI. It needs to be PG-13. It needs to have voice actors from the entire video game and comic book spectrum. It just needs to happen A.S.A.F.P. ‘Nuff Said.

10. Monster Mash

This would basically be a full reboot of Monster Squad but with a hard R rating, and feature not the Universal Monsters but Chucky, Jason, Freddy, Pinhead, Letherface and Michael Myers as the monsters. It would follow a similar structure to the original but would need to have teenagers instead of pre-teens.

Whether any of these actually happen or not, these would all be completely entertaining films to watch.

Exploring digital music stores

I have reached a point in my music collecting that I need to explore other options. I like buying CD’s because they offer me a physical thing I can put on a shelf while also giving me the ability to rip the tracks to my hard drive and then move them to my iPod. The problem is, CD’s are not getting any cheaper for some reason. I buy from Amazon and even though I have Prime, it still ends up costing 7-10 per CD. I was buying them for $2 to $3 each brand new unopened or $.99 used from Hastings. Sadly, Hastings is no longer in business. There doesn’t seem to be any other new or used CD retailers near by so I have turned to the internet. I was hoping I would find some cheap alternative to Amazon but it doesn’t appear to be the case. Now I am exploring digital options.

First, I am NOT anti or pro digital. I have always been for whichever options is cheapest while being the most consumer friendly. My primary reasons for sticking to CD’s has always been cost. When I can get a CD for under $5 even if I only like 2-3 songs, it’s worth it because I value the packaging and artwork, the physical item, at least $1 value so I tend to figure that’s a good price. It’s not like in the 90’s and early 2000’s when I was spending $12 to $15 for a CD just for 2-3 songs, if that. Cost value has always been a factor. I purchase music from iTunes a lot but based on cost alone. For instance, if I know for a fact I only want literally 1 songs from a certain CD and it’s not worth the space having a physical copy would add to the clutter, then I pick up the song from iTunes for the $.99 or $1.29 they tend to be. However, if I know I want all of or a majority of songs, for example Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg, I wanted the whole record, so I was not going to spend the $9.99 on a digital copy when I would prefer a physical copy with the fold out pamphlet. This is another reason why just having a single JPEG for the album art sucks, you just get the superficial cover, you don’t get the actual contents of the booklets.

I realized there had to be a better option. I shot down Amazon digital because the selection sucks. Sometimes they have a “CD” I want and sometimes they just have selections from the artists library. I have come across HUNDREDS of songs or albums they do not have. iTunes has a similar shortcoming so in those instances I tend to look for the actual CD. I tried Pandora but I hate Pandora. I even tried the paid option for a period and it wasn’t any better. I learned Pandora is designed to help you “discover” music. I am 35, I discovered all the music I like when I was a teenager now I just want to build up my collection so I can have music to listen to when I am in the right mood.

Then I tried Spotify. At first it seemed like the perfect option. I could add ENTIRE albums to my playlist, if I paid a monthly fee I could turn off ads, and the player wasn’t terrible to navigate. The first shortcoming I noticed, however, was like Amazon and iTunes they are limited to licenses. This means sometimes they have the ORIGINAL recordings by the original artists, and other times they have those disgusting “Remastered” copies. It’s never clear if a remastered edition refers to them cleaning up the original audio recording tapes from before digital like they did in the 90’s, or this new, very disgusting trend where old men attempt to re-record songs in their twilight years hoping they will sound the same as when they were young men. Trust me I have compared plenty of original recordings to the remastered versions and I can ALWAYS tell the difference. Something  is always off. Maybe the drummer gets tired and starts to slow down, maybe they are using a different drum kit than before, sometimes the guitarists tunes his guitar different or the singer just can’t hit the high notes like he could when he was young. Sometimes it’s noticeable but not too terrible and other times it literally sounds like a damn cover band. I hate that.

Also, they always add new tracks, usually “studio sessions” or demo crap I am not interested in. I want the ORIGINAL album just like it was when it was originally released. The whole point in buying CD’s or records even if you go that far, is to have a tangible item from your actual past. Not some replica. I don’t want reproduction NES carts and I don’t want artists re-recording their songs and selling replicas of their real works.

I have also run into the issue of rights. Sometimes Spotify only has the rights to a selection of songs from an artists not their entire works. This isn’t a problem for mainstream artists but when looking for tracks by techno DJ’s from the 80’s or those quirky low-selling alternative bands from the 90’s suddenly it becomes an issue. To make matters even worse, sometimes they don’t even have full soundtrack albums just a user created playlist containing the closest example of the songs from that soundtrack. I couldn’t even find a single recording of Techno Syndrome by the Immortals, the THEME song to Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t available on any of the digital stores, not even Pandora or Amazon. Nothing. Now I already have the complete line of CD’s, including More Kombat which is just a few bonus songs, but still if someone wasn’t aware of that shortcoming they wouldn’t be able to “discover” that song because it doesn’t exist as far as the digital stores are concerned.

All things considered I realized that buying digital is not the best way to go even still in late 2017. By now you would think they would have everything digital but its like streaming movies services, somehow less is more is their philosophy and its just frustrating as a consumer. I guess I will just stick to buying CD’s for the most part resorting to digital only when it’s necessary to acquire the one or two obscure songs from a particular artists, assuming iTunes or Amazon even has the song I want. I couldn’t find a single store that had Beautiful by Joydrop. I don’t want to spend the outrageous price they want for a copy of the CD for just 1 song so I either have to do without or settle for streaming from YouTube. That is, until YouTube decides to take the video down, again.

Master P Ghetto D: A look back at a classic gangsta rap album

Between the years of 1995 to 1997 there was a war waging between the two coasts of the United States. The East Coast Gangsta Rap scene, led by Puff Daddy and his boy Biggie Smalls, against the hardened West Coast Gangsta Rap scene led by veterans of the L.A. gang scene, and pioneers of the genre N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and newcomers Snoop Dogg, The Dogg Pound, and 2Pac. While Death Row Records was at the forefront of the West and Bad Boy was taking the helm in the East, there was a newcomer about to bust things wide open.

Shots were fired, literally, in late 1994 when 2Pac was gunned down entering the Bad Boy Record studio. He miraculously survived this attack, taking five bullets and then recovering to launch the war full force at Death Row records a couple of years later. In September of 1996 the shots fired again, this time ending 2Pac’s life. Presumably in retaliation, or perhaps as an indirect results of the gang wars, for whatever reason Biggie Smalls was shot and killed just a few months later right before the release of his double album, Life After Death.

Just when everyone thought the Gangsta Rap genre was going to fizzle out, Puff Daddy quickly dropped the gangsta rap persona and shifted to a more radio friendly hip-Pop sound, reminiscent of the main stream sound Will Smith was employing. The gangsta scene looked like it was going to disappear for a brief moment. Even Bad Boy’s next rising star, Ma$e, altered his gangsta image to a more MTV friendly look and their music videos reflected this by focusing more on their flashy parties and money than their gangsta life styles as previous videos had done. The Mafioso rap would live on, under the head of superior producer to Puffy, Jay-Z, as his masterfully crafted Rocafella Records picked up the pieces of the crumbling Bad Boy empire.

In the middle of all the coastal wars there was a new gangsta rap guru waiting to take over and push both Bad Boy and Death Row into obscurity. The mans name was Master P. The record label was No Limit Records. The album, Ghetto D.

By the time No Limit Records came onto the scene, gangsta rap was either west coast G-Funk or east coast mafioso, the southern blend of hard core street and down to earth thugs just trying to make a living was a different change of pace. Although No Limit Records quickly supplanted the two dominant gangsta rap labels of the day, they did so using the very same talent Death Row used to launch. Snoop Doggy Dogg, rebranded as just Snoop Dogg when he left Death Row and joined No Limit. This story is going to focus on the record that made the shift happen. Keep an eye on part two where you can learn more about Snoop’s time with Master P and company.

Ghetto D (short for Ghetto Dope, as per the albums title track) came out hitting hard and fast. The first track on the record hits you in the face with it’s message, “a shout out to drug dealers” as the record claimed. The record didn’t spend a lot of time talking about pimping hoes, drive by shootings, or hit men coming to snipe the snitch, the record just painted a picture of a working class thug trying to make a living selling drugs.

The album gets straight to the point with tracks like Weed & Money, Ghetto D, and Stop Hatin’, it’s the single and subsequent music video that really propelled the record to mainstream recognition. “Make Em Say Ugh!” quickly became a radio hit, a hit on MTV and the anthem for the new wave of hard core gangsta rap that was about to burst onto the scene. That track brought the entire No Limit studio crew right to the front of the Hip-Hop scene and proved that gangsta rap didn’t have to take a side in the deadly gang wars.

The record itself is massive. It sports 19 tracks of pure, hard core hip-hop. Not a single track of interludes, fake radio broadcasts or people talking. The album didn’t tell a story using theatrics like Doggystyle, a superior gangsta rap album in many respects, it did manage to get straight to the point. Master P didn’t need a lot of story lines cluttering up the record, he let the music speak for itself. With solid base lines, quick battle raps, hard beats, and lot’s of G-Funk melodies mixed with some southern beats, the record demonstrated there truly was a middle ground to the gangsta rap turf wars.

1998 was defined by the sounds of Master P, C-Murder and Silkk The Shocker, all who quickly dethrowned the entire Bad Boy and Death Row crews from prominence. Ice Cube, one of the founders of the Gangsta Rap scene, turned to Hollywood and left the music industry mostly behind. Dr. Dre responded to the  new label by hiring a White Boy to get his game back on track. Snoop Dogg himself even followed the old, if you can’t beat em, join em, mantra as he released several albums on the record label that left Death Row in the ashes. Silkk The Shocker would quickly follow up Master P’s glorious sounding Ghetto D with a record of his own, Charge it to The Game, featuring the hit “It Ain’t My Fault” and prominently featuring newcomer Snoop Dogg on some respectable gangsta tracks.

Much like Doggystyle before, each track serves a purpose in getting the listener to fear and respect the talents of the producer behind the scenes. Ghetto D rose to the occasion of filling in the gaps created by the decline of the two East Coast/West Coast giants. Their reign didn’t last forever as Jay Z and his Rockafella Records would soon surpass all three gangsta rap labels in terms of sales, money, presence in the market, and number of important artists all combined.

The aftermath of the decline of the Coastal Wars left Death Row in ruins, Bad Boy turned pop, and Dr. Dre selling records featuring a bleached blond Backstreet Boy lookalike. Master P stood up and reminded the world that gangsta rap music could still be about hard music with a prominent message interlaced within some head bobbing tracks. Ghetto D is easily one of the top 25 gangsta rap records of all time.

The story of a home brew part 2: A case study of one game that did it right

The Immortal John Hancock, a prominent YouTube gamer, posted a thread on June 3, 2016, to a Nintendo collectors’ forum asking for a programmer for a potential project. Antoine Fantys was the programmer that answered that call.

From his early days as a programmer fiddling around with BASIC on his Commodore 64, Fantys wanted to be a programmer.

“I came across a Commodore 64. The beauty about this machine was that you could learn BASIC programming and program simple games directly on the computer.” he said.

“I ended up learning BASIC and coding my first games on a retro platforms, which included text adventures and a horse racing game of all things.” he added.

His interest in retro games began with his NES games on a Game Boy Advance, which later developed into full blown passion once he discovered YouTube.

“I found footage of the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Finding out about Super Mario Bros. and all those games of yesteryear sparked my interest in retro gaming, and especially the NES” he said.

When Hancock made the call asking for a programmer, he jumped at the opportunity. It was his chance to do something for the community, and make a name for himself while honing his programming skills. He reached out to Hancock via that forum and they two went to work.

“The game was John’s idea. I believe the game was a favorite of his. It’s based on an old 1981 Stern/Konami arcade game called ‘Turtles.'” he said.

He knew right away it was a project he wanted in on.

“As soon as I saw the video of the game John sent me, I knew I would like to work on this game because such arcade games are fun and easy to port on a console like the NES.” he said.

Fantys got his start on the NES doing, in his words “crappy rom hacks.” From there his interest grew. He found his way onto a Nintendo fan site that had a home brew section and he began learning the programming language of the NES.

For the most part, he works alone. He will occasionally bring on help with the music, in this case he did it all.

Once the game was finish John Hancock shared the story to his YouTube channel. From there John Riggs took the game and turned it into a charity work for an gaming expo he was a part of. With the help of prominent YouTubers, Fantys was able to get his name, and work, to a wider audience.

When it comes to ROMS and the home brew scene. Fantys tends to play it safe. He doesn’t make his roms he owns available, choosing to just sell carts if he can. He indicated he would consider using a form of DRM if it was a work he owned the rights to, yet he did claim he often sells the rights to his games.

This is where the gaming community and the home brew scene can come together. While I believe it to be okay to download roms of games nobody is profiting off, of course except the re-sellers making cash on second hand merchandise, I think original games have a right to be protected. On the other hand, when it comes to games like Pac-Man, Mega Man, Mario, Zelda, etc., then the user should make a attempt to purchase, or obtain, a legal copy before pirating. In this case I tend to favor supporting the Nintendo eShop, the PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam. It sucks paying money for a ROM of a game you already owned at some point in time, yet you do have to remember once you sell the physical cart you sold your rights to the program on that rom. Also owning physical carts does not automatically give you the right to the program stored on the carts rom chips.

All things considered Fantys took a game someone else already made, an arcade game, and ported it, at the request of a collector in the industry, and made it available as a clone to those who were interested in obtaining that version. Since the game in question is based on someone else’s property, it stands to reason the gamer who does wish to play the game would be better served tracking down a legit copy, or playing it on MAME if they have no other option. The real need to play a ROM of a port of an arcade game to the NES, decades later, seems kind of counter intuitive. Is it scummy, shady or illegal what Fantys and Hancock have done? I don’t think so. They made it very clear every step of the way it was a clone of an arcade game, they made it very clear they were making it available to collectors who wanted physical copies, and it was done as a labor of love to the community of home brew gamers, programmers, collectors, and retro gamers in general. All in all this is how you do a retro/homebrew based on existing works the right away.

Now if they called it Turtles, basically recreated the original game in its entirety line byline and tried to sell it a their own without recognizing the original rights owners, that would be a different story entirely. Kudos to Fantys and Hancock for creating a project that was done out of passion for the scene, the community and the love of retro games. While it is easy to get caught up in who owns the rights to what, which degree of piracy counts as infringement and where the line should be drawn, at the end of the day all that really matters is gamers get to enjoy the works of programmers who enjoy making games for others to enjoy. It’s the circle of gaming.

Be sure to check out his YouTube video discussing the game Here

 

 

 

The story of a home brew that redefined what it means to be a home brew: Part 1 the morality of home brews.

A kid turns on a small, square shaped tube television set his parents kept in the basement for some reason. Hooked up to the TV is a square, mostly gray box. Inside the box is a tiny little rectangular piece of plastic that holds some computer program inside a ROM chip. The kid turns the TV to channel 3, pushes the piece of plastic down into the slider, closes the lid hits the power button with fingers crossed the game turns on this time glitch free. If everything lined up perfectly, the cart was cleaned, the console was dust free, the stars aligned just right, the game would begin. If not, the ritual of blowing into the cart, wiping the spit/grime of with a Q-tip, then jiggling the cart in, shaking it, pushing reset 25 times, etc., would commence in hopes things would find a way to get to work.

Everyone that was a Nintendo gamer in the 1980’s went through a similar ritual at least more than once in his or her life. The reality was the NES, as fondly was we try to remember it, was actually a terrible product. It required constant maintenance, care, cleaning, the cords were fragile and easy to bend, the controllers, while sturdy, were made of a very hard plastic that could crack or break if not taken care of properly. It had sharp edges that dug into kids hands, the console it self was sharp edges that if you weren’t careful could stub a toe on or hit an elbow or in some cases just jam a finger trying to shove the stupid cart into the machine. While any game would legitimately have GOOD memories of the games they played, when they in fact worked, more often than not we tend to push aside the negative memories we really have of the NES and allow blind nostalgia take us on a trip down memory lane.

One of the reasons we forget is, aside from a small subset of eccentric collectors, most gamers don’t actually play their old NES games on physical NES systems anymore. In fact, even a growing number of those who do play using PHYSICAL carts, do so on either refurbished consoles with extra money put into keeping the machine working, or in those increasing cases, play on a clone console that actually, compatibility issues aside, works better in many cases. The need to own a physical cart is even supplanted, but still satisfied by those who purchase a FLASH cart and load it up with ROMS. The point is there are a lot of different ways to enjoy an old NES game, playing the original cart on original hardware worry free is not the number one way of doing so. Despite that there remains a retro and home brew gaming scene who prey on the customers who have desires to relive, a false version of their childhood. These people are not all predators, some are but most are just coders who have fond memories of the NES and want to share their games with others. The problem is some of them take it a step too far, going as far as implementing copy protections on games they didn’t actually create, they really just took someone else’s design and made a port, calling it their own work and preventing others from playing the games the way most gamers actually DO play NES games, on a emulator minus all the hassle of tracking down all the satanic little emblems you need to make your retro machine work. Hyperbole aside, I have never in my life had a good experience picking up a USEd NES cart, inserting it into an original NES and it just worked. Not even when I was a kid and the machine was fairly new. We would rent games from the video store and I would spend the first half an hour or so just fighting the stupid thing to get it to work. You only had a game for the weekend if you were lucky or 1 night if it was a new release, so every second you spent twisting and tugging on carts was precious sec onds you would have been playing, what could have ended up being a shitty LJN game.

If you put aside the fact that most people don’t game on physical hardware, then why is it scummy for a programmer to charge money for a ROM they programmed? They put in the work and time after all? Honestly, it’s not scummy to charge for your time or work. It is, however pretty shady if the work you did was merely just porting a game some other creative person actually thought up and created decades back. If all you are doing is copying someone else’s work I, personally, think you have no right to sell it to the general public. If you want to sell your work to a collector, the physical cartridge, the art work, the case, etc., fine by all rights, but when a programmer, or coder, ports a game from another system, or just hacks a rom and calls it their own, to me that is kind of shady.

At the very least, if you can get permission from the original programmer, or their blessing then by all means do so. Sometimes copyrights are infringed but they can be done so in certain contexts without repercussions. My stance has always been respect the copy rights of those who do the actual creative work, not the pirates who stand to profit off other peoples work yet claim it as their own.

I do understand as a new programmer, especially one unwilling to actually go to college and get a job in the industry, starting out you need to get experience somewhere and porting other games to a new platform, or writing a clone program is certainly a very TRUE and legit way of honing your skills. However, make sure you let people know your CLONE is just that. I am okay with clones existing and if you want to sell a clone game by all rights you should be able to do that, as long as your clone is at least somewhat original or at the very least going to a good cause.

I did some digging into the behind the scenes development of a few different clone games, some home brew games and some rom hacks. There are cases of games like Battle Kid where the game is truly original the programmer has every right to brag about what his or her team accomplished. Games like Pier Solar are cornerstones of the home brew and aftermarket industry. Then you have the 150 thousand Super Mario Bros and Sonic 1 rip offs that just alter the sprites, rearrange the levels and try to pass it off as something original.

All of this has to have some middle ground. While I certainly do not in any way begrudge a programmer cutting his or her teethe on doing a rom hack or a home brew that is basically a clone of another game, there needs to be some honor in doing it. First, you should make sure people are fully aware it is a CLONE and do your best to reference the original game, if you CAN give credit to the original programmer, and better still if you can at least make an effort to reach and and get said programmers blessing more than anything great fantastic.

There are examples of some scummy home brew hacks who profit off other people’s work, I won’t list them you can dig up the dirt your self, google home brew. There is one hack in particular who just did a straight port of a certain PC game to a long dead nobody cared about console, I won’t say more than that except it’s not even a clone he did it entirely as a straight port. This, to me, is a gray area closer to don’t even bother. Now if it’s an open source game go ahead.

Then there is the example I want to highlight if you are still reading. This is a two-part story, part one set the stage, which is all the opinion above. Keep in mind my opinions are just that, my opinions and are meant to get people thinking. There is no need to attack me, argue with me, or hate me for getting people to think. If you disagree, share that, explain, in a civilized way, why you disagree and maybe I will listen to what you have to say. I often make claims not as my own but just to get people to really think about things so they can defend their stance.

That being said, I do think home brew games are fantastic, and when they do get a physical release for the collectors to enjoy, I am all for that. I think roms should ALWAYS be dumped at some point, minus copy protection because one, if nobody is copy protecting Mario or Zelda games, games Nintendo still profits off, then they shouldn’t be copy protecting their own roms. Two, I believe that roms should always be available for preservation purposes even of new games. The reason, the collectors who WILL pay for the game are not going to download a rom and those who WILL download the rom were NEVER going to pay for the physical cart in the first place. If you want to hold the rom until you know the collectors who want carts all have it and then dump it, DRM free at a later date, fair enough, do that. But holding a rom hostage, especially when its not a 100 percent original work, is shady at the very least. Holding roms hostage when it’s a rom hack or a prototype is 100 percent scummy, UNLESS you are the actual copy right holder and you just don’t want your failures made public, that is your right.

So when is it okay to charge for a rom and when should you limit the audience of your game? In the case of Battle Kid, that is an easy answer. If the game is 100 percent original and you did the work, then preventing people from stealing your work is your right. I also agree that Nintendo has a right to prevent you from playing Super Mario Bros. on your PC, support them buy a 3DS if you can’t stomach the Wii U, and download the rom from their virtual console. If a game was released by a company that no longer exists, and the only people who profit are re-sellers of used copies, then by all rights pirate that game all day long if you so desire. It’s technically illegal but it’s close enough to fair use you should be able to justify it.

What about when a programmer takes an existing game, say Pac-Man, and ports it to a system it never had an official release, say the Channel F, as an example? Should this person have a right to copy protect THAT rom? No, because it’s not their work. They have a right to burn the rom to physical carts and sell those to all of the collectors that are willing to pay a price for it, but copy protecting that rom is wrong and should not be tolerated. However, come on if you aren’t buying a physical copy why would you want to play an inferior port if there is no historical context? As bad as it is I do re-play the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man from time to time, because it has historical value and I had it as a kid, there is nostalgia. Nobody had Pac-Man on their TG-16, it was never ported officially to that, so if a rom hacker makes a port of that game and sells it, that is fine for a CART but wrong, in my opinion, to sell a ROM. Even releasing the ROM to Steam is wrong, not to mention that is actually illegal no question.

But what if its a clone. Not a true port but a game made to resemble another game? KC Munchkin was considered a Pac-Man clone. While I disagree with the courts decision to pull it from shelves, the fact remains it was pretty much a clone. However, there is historical context there and nostalgia. What about porting PC games to non-PC systems, or would it be okay to port Super Mario Bros. not a rom, not an emulation but a re-programmed straight port, or clone even if you will, a la, Giana Sister, to a PC? I think even this is acceptable to do, but not to profit off.

Here is where I draw the line. A truly original work that is your own, charge money for it protect your copy right until your death and leave it in your will to someone you love. If it’s just a labor of love, a practice, a port of someone else’s work to a system that didn’t already have that game, if you want to sell the physical cart to collectors fine but let the rom go to those who will download it do so. I mean as a gamer myself I don’t download rom hacks or games that didn’t exist anyways, like I said I need historical context or else I have no interest in playing Mortal Kombat on a SNES, I would be better playing the actual arcade port on PS3 or the rom on MAME.

Check back for part 2 as I investigate an outlier I think did it right, but did leave room for error.

 

Are review shows taking over YouTube?

The first time I discovered YouTube it was to check out a friends short film he had posted to the site. It was a very no-budget 80’s b-action movie rip off. The acting was bad, the story was very basic and the special effects didn’t really exist. But it was a very interesting concept. Broadcast yourself. As a budding filmmaker I was excited for the potential. A world where indie and low budget filmmakers could showcase their works to the world. I immediately grabbed my camera, a group of friends and set out to produce a talk show where we would discuss comic books, video games and movies. I set up a desk, lights, microphones the whole nine yards. I was expecting to utilize this new technology to really capture that dream of alternative, user created content that would lower the barrier of entry.

I first started to notice things weren’t quite going as I pictured when I noticed the insanely popular viral video of two dorks lip syncing to the Mortal Kombat theme son g. While the short video was entertaining, at least good for a chuckle. I was shocked to learn the two who uploaded the video shot to super stardom almost over night. Of course I am referring to Smosh. It soon became a race to be the next viral super star and thus the race to the bottom began. There was that Numa Numa video, Soldier Boy Tell Em, and a host of other copy cats. I hadn’t lost hope yet, I still felt there was a budding film making industry just lying in wait.

Then YouTube was bought out by Google and everything changed. Suddenly the need to get millions of hits in order to attract ad dollars meant that the need to make quality videos that required true creativity was replaced by quick videos to cash in. Sure some decent productions managed to slip through the cracks, but even those had to rely on a gimmick. Shows like Angry Video Game Nerd, Pat the NES Punk and Nostalgia Critic, among dozens of others, quickly resonated with audiences.

Partly cashing in on nostalgia and partly adapting to the changing audience, review shows quickly became the prominent format for the quality film makers to get their product out there. Some, such as the aforementioned Angry Video Game Nerd, would slip in their more creative short films onto their channels as specials or filler to tide their audiences over while they worked on other projects. Others, like Pat the NES Punk embraced the narrative format from the beginning finding creative ways to mask his reviews as miniature episodes of an extended parody show that focused on a character that was obsessed with Nintendo games. Before too long the AVGN videos would also weave narratives and production values into his videos with story lines that spanned entire seasons at times. This continued into the Board James series, a show that reviewed old board games.

In the years following review shows have become a powerful force vying for the attention of the fickle YouTube audience. New short forms of videos have sprung up such as vlogs, unboxing videos and long form videos exist in the form of Let’s Play’s. The haven for budding film students to showcase their creative works was quickly supplanted by culture of becoming the next big viral video.

This presents a problem for the budding filmmakers. Some of these review shows formed out of the need for the film makers to hone their craft of writing narrative videos and editing them into coherent stories while masking them as review shows in order to find an audience. Some of the creators, such as James Rolfe himself, have stated their original desires were to be actual filmmakers and they originally used YouTube as a means to showcase their works. Many of them even uploaded videos outside of YouTube before they realized it was the platform of choice. But has doing so stifled their creativity shoehorning them into roles they might otherwise have been able to break out of had they not fallen into the trap?

The complexities of YouTube’s ever changing advertising policies means that content creators who are in it for the money have to constantly be adapting to what the advertising giant requires. Google makes all of their money off ads and in recent months they have come under fire from advertisers to take a stronger stance on content. This, in turn, has forced the content creators to again adapt their videos to the changing landscape. Many of the review shows do have hints of great, very creative TV shows hidden within them. The trouble is how does a creator, such as Rolfe or his contemporaries, break the mold and release content that doesn’t rely on them simultaneously reviewing a product most don’t even remember that fondly? Even when you look at the AVGN videos, the best videos are the ones where the review takes a back seat to a more compelling narrative story. Perhaps the only way to make great quality videos on YouTube is to build an audience doing review shows before slowing moving onto other types of content?